There is no question that indoor cats live longer and healthier lives. The average life expectancy for an indoor cat is 12 to 15 years vs. 4 to 5 years for an outdoor cat. To ensure that they also live happy lives, it is imperative that cat guardians provide a stimulating environment. If you feel strongly that your cat should have access to the great outdoors, leash training is a way to allow her to safely enjoy being outside. For some cats, safe outdoor excursions can help prevent behavior problems by stimulating them and helping them burn off excess energy. Leash training can also come in handy during trips to the veterinarian, or during emergency situations.
Get a harness made for cats
The harness should be lightweight, fit comfortably and come with a clip attached to the back of the harness. The leash should pull from the chest, not the neck. Never attach a leash to a cat’s collar. Cats can easily slip out of traditional collars. The best harnesses are those that look like a little jacket.
Allow your cat to get used to the harness
Leave the harness out for several days so your cat can sniff it and get used to it. Once he’s used to it, gently drape it over his body while giving him treats and praise. Slowly get him used to the feel of the harness’ straps around his torso. If your cat starts fussing, stop, back up a step, and go more slowly. Always reward good behavior with treats.
Once your cat tolerates the harness, ensure that it fits well. You should be able to slip two fingers between the harness and your cat’s body.
Allow our cat to wear the harness for a few minutes at a time, and gradually increase the time. Do not attach the leash yet.
Get your cat used to the leash
Once your cat is comfortable with the harness, attach the leash. Let your cat get used to the leash by dragging it behind him, and reward him with treats. Never leave your cat unsupervised while the leash is attached so he can’t snag it on anything.
Once he is used to the leash, pick up the leash and follow your cat around the house. Keep the leash loose and reward him with praise and treats as he walks.
Practice directing your cat with the leash by encouraging him with a soft voice or treats to follow you. Tug gently on the leash if your cat goes into the opposite direction, but never yank the leash hard. Reward your cat if he corrects his direction. If your cat tugs on the leash, simply stop and wait until relaxes, them continue to move.
When you’re ready to head outdoors, find a quiet, secluded area. Cats who are not used to being outside will easily get overwhelmed and may be nervous or startle easily. Let your cat explore at his own pace. Keep your first outings short. As your gets more used to being outside, you can increase the time and distance you walk with him.
This article was previously published on Answers.com with the title Leash Training Cats, and is republished with permission.